Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Paradox or Confusion – From the Daily Office – May 17, 2012

From Matthew’s Gospel:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Matthew 28:16-20 – May 17, 2012)

Dali AscensionToday is the Feast of the Ascension. Today we remember that, forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, disappearing from his disciples’ sight into the clouds. Luke tells us in the Book of Acts that the disciples stood there gazing up towards heaven, and that two men, presumably angels, appeared and asked “Why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) So we have two biblical promises: “I’m still with you” and “He’s not with you but he’ll be back.” The Christian paradox illustrated in the readings for a single day. ~ For me the meaning of the Ascension is summarized in the petition of one of the collects for the day in the American Book of Common Prayer (1979): that “we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell” – or as Jesus put it in John’s gospel “that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) I don’t understand that as a future conditional promise but rather as a present permissive reality. Christ’s ascension allows us to be in God’s presence, now . . . no matter what our circumstance may be. It’s a matter of us recognizing that presence in the present, which we so often fail to do because we think of it as a future reward for some good behavior or something on our part when, in reality, it has nothing to do with our behavior or our goodness at all. The apparent paradox of the two biblical promises accurately reflects our confusion.

1 Comment

  1. Rosalind Hughes

    I’m looking at eternal life for this Sunday in a similar vein. Thanks for sharing!

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